You know you’re bored in the gym when you start pondering if God, nature, energy, and mathematics are all mere facets of some bigger Something that our little brains can’t fully grasp.
The gym really does bore me to death, but maybe with a few more visits I can finally unravel the mysteries of our universe. AND I get a cardio workout!
There’s an absolutely fascinating article in the latest Scientific American about some scientists who were able to produce a sense of spiritual awe and wonder in a group of test subjects purely by artificial means. The summary posted on Slashdot gives us the lowdown:
Scientific American is reporting on scientific work done to map the euphoric religious feelings within the brain. As a result, it’s now quite possible to experience ‘proximity to God’ via a special helmet: “In a series of studies conducted over the past several decades, Persinger and his team have trained their device on the temporal lobes of hundreds of people. In doing so, the researchers induced in most of them the experience of a sensed presence—a feeling that someone (or a spirit) is in the room when no one, in fact, is—or of a profound state of cosmic bliss that reveals a universal truth. During the three-minute bursts of stimulation, the affected subjects translated this perception of the divine into their own cultural and religious language—terming it God, Buddha, a benevolent presence or the wonder of the universe.”
I’m speechless! This astounds me, but it’s also not entirely surprising as many people tend to have profound spiritual experiences (religious or otherwise) while ingesting substances like psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, DMT, or even good ol’ pot. If this stuff can be produced by taking a drug or wearing one of these helmets, does this mean that people who have spiritual and mind-expanding experiences are simply being deluded by their brain’s chemical doings? One would be tempted to say yes, but if people are having these reactions without the presence of drugs or external stimuli (intense worhip, etc.), then what causes the brain to produce these feelings seemingly at random? If emotions can be reduced to a bunch of chemical reactions, then maybe this can, too. Or maybe not…I prefer to remain agnostic on certain things.
OK, this is too much to think about on a Monday. 🙂
Some Christians, bless their misguided little hearts, are praying alongside Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan. No, they’re not praying for anything silly like good health, well-being, or a peaceful life for Muslims, oh no. They’re praying that Muslims find Jesus. Yeah, what else didja expect? It’s the usual “Our god has a bigger dick than your god” kinda thing. My friend Jon sent this in with a comment: “More proof that Christians, on the whole, are clueless egocentrists, bent on the idea their way is the only way. I have never seen proof of god, but I can say, I have seen proof of the devil.”
Jon, have you found Jesus? And when you do, can you tell him he still owes me five bucks?
A while back I came across a website dedicated to Einstein’s writings on God and religion. It’s fascinating to see how someone like Einstein approached topics like this. While he didn’t believe in a “personal God” he did believe in something. He was awestruck by the tremendously complex structure of Nature and the universe, and while he admitted that humans could only have an imperfect understanding of it all, it nevertheless gave him a “religious” feeling — stemming from deep humility, not mysticism. Here’s a good quote:
It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropomorphic concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near to those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order and harmony which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem — the most important of all human problems.
The site has plenty of other quotes and writings by Einstein on this subject and similar ones, and it’s quite a good read.